Anita Dobson has paid tribute to her EastEnders co-star Leslie Grantham who died aged 71.

Dobson who played Angie Watts – the wife of 'Dirty' Den – in the TV soap, described Grantham as the "archetypal charming rogue" and spoke of their "magic" chemistry on the show.

His representative announced on Friday that the actor had died after a long battle with cancer.

Best known for his role in the BBC soap, he played Albert Square's notorious villain 'Dirty' Den from 1985 to 1989.

Dobson told BBC News: "He was a good-looking guy, he was a charmer, he was funny, he was a good actor. And he was fun to be around, we were good mates.

"But I think there's always that kind of look about him that you just didn't know what he was going to do next, and that was his ace in the hole, there was always that bit about him that was slightly unpredictable, which I liked and what gave him the edge on TV."

Image: Leslie Grantham played EastEnders' most well-known villain – 'Dirty' Den Watts

She said they were both "really lucky" they were cast opposite each other because they had chemistry.

"We didn't have to do anything, it just happened. We learnt our lines, we met on set and bang, we were off."

Dobson added: "I came from nothing, from the east end with no money, and Leslie, as you know, had a chequered life before EastEnders, but we sort of understood each other, we understood that life can be tough.

"And we were fortunate, we were catapulted to an exotic place, but we were playing real people, people that we knew and we loved it."

Anita Dobson and Leslie Grantham
Image: Dobson and Grantham pictured in 2000

The 1986 Christmas Day episode – in which Grantham handed over divorce papers to his on-screen wife, Angie – broke all soap episode ratings pulling in more than 30 million viewers.

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Grantham leaves behind three children – Spike, Jake and Danny – from his 31 year marriage to former actress Jane Laurie.

A private funeral will be held for friends and family in due course.

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